The judge's view

When I look at this year's Mercury shortlist I am as proud as a peacock

When I look at this year's Nationwide Mercury shortlist, teeming with great musicians and fabulous tunes, I am proud as a peacock. Why? Because I'm one of the judges - and I think this year is a belter.

But what does the Mercury shortlist tell us about Britain today? For a start, it tells us that British musicians are fresh and forward-thinking. Some of the nominees may wave at the past, but I'll be damned if they drown in it. Robert Plant wraps bluegrass in strange new clothes; Laura Marling weaves modern stories within classic folk structures; Portico Quartet take jazz into wild places. These nominees put their stamp on musical history, and their confidence to do this should be cheered.

I'm also proud that the nominees sound remarkably British, suggesting a great pride in the places they came from. Elbow's record sounds ragged and northern, while Adele's raw soul suggests a south London teenage Aretha. Even Estelle's Shine and Neon Neon's Stainless Style follow this rule, despite the former including guest spots from Kanye West and John Legend, and the latter being made by Wales's Gruff Rhys and America's Boom Bip. But Rhys and Estelle own their records entirely, taking their accents and backgrounds on new, vivid journeys.

It is thanks to the democracy of voting, and not design, that other trends have been reflected, too. It's nice that the list features three solo women, for instance, at a time when rock's masculine rule book is being rewritten. It's great that long-serving bands such as Radiohead and British Sea Power are still being applauded for making great records. More than anything, though, the list shows that pioneering albums are still being made - no mean feat in a post-iTunes age when the track is often glorified over the long-player, and when the record industry is facing countless challenges.

To this judge's mind, these 12 records show us that Great Britain is still great.

Jude Rogers is a columnist and music critic for the Guardian, Observer, Word and New Statesman

This article first appeared in the 01 September 2008 issue of the New Statesman, The truth about GM food